Recruiting for the future

After making statistical improvements over the last two years, Rob Beam, head coach of Oakland University’s women’s volleyball team, said he’s looking for the team to “take it to the next step.” Helping to take that step is a recruiting class that, for the second consecutive year, was listed by as an honorable mention.

“We’re looking to make a transcendental jump and start really putting our name and our brand forward,” Beam said.

The incoming class features a group of high school standouts, including some that Beam said he’s had his eye on for a while.

Alli Kirk, out of Bloomington, Ill., was one of the top 26 liberos in her class. Beam coached her when she was on the Illini Elite Volleyball Club and said she’s a positive force who “brings skill and a chemistry-building personality to the program.”

“I know what she can do for teams,” said Beam.

At 6 feet 1 inch, Brittany Holbrook, a middle hitter who graduated from John Glenn High School, adds physicality to the Grizzlies’ lineup.

“She has a good jump, hits hard,” Beam said. “She’s a perfect fit for us.”

 Outside hitter Meghan Bray out of Naperville, Ill., was selected as one of the  Top 250 Senior “Aces” in the country by Beam said Bray, who has won state and national championships, has a well-rounded game and raises the level of expectations by having been there in big moments.

Beam said he’d been recruiting Amber Miehlke, an outside hitter from Lake Zurich, Ill., for a long time. He said Miehlke is a very competitive person who’s always taking extra lessons and looking to improve her game.

“She loves to compete, loves to play, loves to win,” said Beam. “She’s a kind of engine that drives the team.”

The final recruit Beam discussed is defense specialist Jillian Kulka from Grosse Pointe, Mich. Beam said that he met her at OU’s summer camp last year and said he was drawn to her attitude and love of the game.

Oakland lost five seniors to graduation this spring, but Beam said his remaining veterans are “hungry” and looking to improve this season.

“They’re a great, young, energetic, athletic group,” Beam said.

Junior Brittany Dunn will be replacing Lauren DuQuette, who graduated last year, at libero.

“I’m hoping to fill her shoes,” said Dunn, noting that DuQuette “did a lot to help the team.”

Dunn was voted in as captain by her peers for the spring season and Beam expects she’ll be a captain in the fall.

“As a junior, I think that’s impressive to have earned that respect,” Beam said.

Beam also said senior Adrienne Leone is poised to have a “breakout season” and become a dominant outside hitter.

Leone said she has a personal goal of breaking the OU record for career kills and spikes and would also like to see the team win more than eight games, which she’s confident they will.

The spring season provided needed experience for players who didn’t get a lot of playing time last fall. Though no official records are kept for the spring, Beam said he’s happy with the way his team performed.

“We had a tremendous progression from the first to third game,” said Beam.

Leone said after losing five seniors it was good to see the incoming players come in and perform.

“We actually did really well,” said Leone.

Fans will get to see the team in action at the Black and Gold Scrimmage Aug. 22. The scrimmage is a tradition that Beam brought over from his days at Illinois State, where he coached for two seasons before coming to OU in 2007.

“It’s our dress rehearsal,” said Beam, adding that it’s a chance for everyone to “put on a jersey and get their first match nerves out.”

For the summer, strength and conditioning coach Todd Wohlfeil has the team on a six-week workout program that, whether on or off campus, the girls are completing.

“We’ll be hitting the ground running in August instead of playing catch-up,” said Beam. The team reconvenes Aug. 10 for their first practice.

Oakland finished 8-21 last season with a 5-11 record in the Summit League.

And after adding a strong recruiting class to a group of veteran returnees, Dunn said she thinks qualifying for the Summit League conference tournament is a “very realistic goal.”